Work is proceeding on an interpretive center on the Coghlan Castle midway between Rolla and St. John on North Dakota Highway 30.
However, Becky Leonard, the vice president of the nonprofit Save Coghlan Castle Inc., and Bobbi Hepper Olson of Buxton, the architect serving as project manager for the interpretive site, said the foundation is still hoping to raise matching funds for a grant it received from the North Dakota Department of Transportation.
Leonard said fundraising is hampered because Rolette County is one of the poorer counties in the state and there are fewer deep pockets there than in other areas.
“Any amount (donated) is greatly appreciated,” said Leonard, who said the group will have to give back the grant money if it is unable to raise the matching funds. Hepper Olson said the group has also submitted several other grants to various entities.
When it is completed, the interpretive site will include a kiosk set in a stone foundation. The content of the five panels will tell the history of the castle, the history of agriculture within the region and the history of the Coghlan family that originally owned the historic stone building. The interpretive center will serve as another attraction along the Scenic Byway in the Turtle Mountains. As the building is currently owned by Tim DeMers, the castle itself is not open to the public, but people will be able to enjoy a picnic at the interpretive site and learn more about the castle when the interpretive site is finished.
The stone house was designed by Canadian architect Thomas Boyner and constructed by another Canadian architect using local limestone, sandstone and granite. It stood out in town at a time when other houses in the area were sod houses or tar paper shacks.
The Coghlan family only owned the house for a few years. “Like with most farm families, they didn’t make it through the first depression in 1918,” said Leonard.
However, Leonard said the Coghlan family rented the house into the 1940s. The building has stood vacant since the middle of the 20th century. It was a popular party site for local teenagers in the 1960s and 1970s and was vandalized in the 1960s.
However, Leonard and other members of the nonprofit group have worked tirelessly to try to save the building. They have worked to stabilize the structure and halt further deterioration. A few years ago there was an open house at which members of the public were invited to learn more about the castle and also learn how to to work on the castle. Leonard said she learned how to do tuckpoint and how mortars were mixed for that era.
The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
Hepper Olson said the castle has inspired her imagination as well as others in the area, since it is the only building of its type in North Dakota. Leonard hopes the group will be able to hold a similar event sometime this summer so people may get a close-up look at the castle.